Last year I was much less confident at running a business, and didn’t have the same experience as I do now, one year on.  I expect you were the same too. I have yet to meet someone that has less experience after doing something for a little while!  It is exactly the same for skaters. Often it takes quite a lot of courage on their part to start working with me.  At the beginning they’re really not quite sure what I do or what it will mean for them – but they very quickly see positive results and start to skate with much more confidence.  They are developing and changing from who they were, and the challenging place they had been in – many of them for some time – into a newly emerging and more positive person, reflected in their performance and their practice attitude as well.

“Well that’s pretty obvious!” I hear you say.

Now imagine that you’d been making changes in your life and your approach to things in order to be more positive and confident. And then someone who’s known you for a long time makes a comment to you, or about you, based on your ‘former’ self. Perhaps you’ve done some ‘assertiveness training’ at work and someone who doesn’t know says “oh it’s no good asking her to lead the group she’s much too timid…”   And bang! You’re back feeling like everyone just thinks you’re not up to it – in spite of what might be some very positive moves towards a permanent change.

Coaches (and Judges) sometimes allow their preconceived notions of a skater, based on past performance to cloud their judgement over current behaviours.  You may not be aware that a skater is working on his or her issues around frustration, anger, lack of self belief – and even when they change, you might not notice because you have already tarred them with that brush.  Already put them in the ‘difficult to manage’ box.  What if… (I love that question) you suspended judgement for a while and looked at them in a new light?

I teach my skaters (and others I coach) to look for the positives – to focus on what IS working rather than what isn’t.  In the same way, I would love to see coaches and judges do the same. Approach every skater, on every new occasion like it is a fresh start. Look for the good in them, seek out signs of positive change and growing confidence instead of assuming that they’ll always be the same timid, frustrated or challenging skater.  I’m sure you’d want people to think of you in the same positive light rather than  “which judge is it? Oh no! s/he hates me!”.  I hope I’m right in telling skaters that judges are looking for what they CAN do, rather than what they can’t do!

Coaches need to be especially aware of this. You can crush a timid skater who’s still on their journey of becoming stronger and more resilient – merely with some ill-chosen language and by making assumptions.  Of course the journey to confidence is not plain sailing.  There may be choppy waters along the way. But please don’t sink their boat before they get out to the open sea.